Souce: Lambert, W. G. (1996) Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Indiana.

The Sumerian King List and the book of Genesis, as is well known, have a common framework of the early history of mankind: a succession of nine or ten long-lived worthies is brought to an end by a divinely sent flood, which destroys the human race apart from one man and his dependants, who are warned and escape in a specially built boat. Since the wickedness of men had incited the divine wrath, some instructions on living are given at the time of the flood in both Hebrew and Sumerian records. In Genesis, God gives the commandments on consuming animal blood and sheeding human bood, which were developed later into a series of ordinances binding on all mankind. In sumerian there was a work called The Instructions of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu, and consisting of sayings addressed to Ziusudra by his father, Shuruppak. Shuruppak appears in one manuscript of the Sumerian King List as an extra generation between Ubartutu and Ziusudra. In the other manuscripts and elsewhere these two men are father and son, and it has been suggested that the intruder might have arisen through an epithet of the father (man of Shuruppak) having been taken wrongly for a proper name. ...

The mysterious person from Shuruppak deserves further consideration. He is somehow not included in most of the manuscripts of the Sumerian King List, and the later traditions of Gilgamesh (Tablet XI) and Berossus know nothing of him. A reason for his appearance and especially in connection with the Instructions, is to be sought in the original setting and purpose of this advice. Since it was wickedness on the part of humankind that brought the flood, whether gross moral corruption, as in Genesis, or unnecessary noise that kept the gods awake, according to the Atrahasis Epic, the admonitions given in this context are obviously intended as warnings to mankind against a repetition of the evil. This is very clear in the Biblical account, and the general nature of the Sumerian sayings does not militate against this view, since the several compilations of Ahiqar sayings are examples of the way in which diverse collections of material can get attached to the same figure. A priori the obvious person to have given these instructions was the flood hero himself, and in Genesis Noah was the intermediary. The story of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI, however, must have created a difficulty, because although that account like the Atrahasis Epic describes the boarding of the ark by all the kith and kin of Utnapishtim, when the waters subside it appears that only he and his wife have survived. They are promptly made immortal and are settled on a remote island. If the sayings were pronounced by Utnapishtim, he could not have passed them on to the postdiluvian world. Thus in Berossus he is instructed to write "beginnings, middles and ends" on tablets, and to bury them in Sippar, where they were found after the flood. The Instructions of Shuruppak must have been considered part, if not the whole, of this cache. Berossus, however, in the usual confusion of such traditions, states that there were other people in the ark, who repopulated the earth. This, however, stultifies the burying of tablets, seeing that these people could have spread the teaching. Ovid, however, had a tradition that only two persons were saved, and that they engendered offspring by throwing stones over their shoulders.

Teaching implies two parties, and the Mesopotamian version of a flood hero ho had no dealings with men after the flood did not allow him the opportunity of being the teacher. This seems to be the background against which the stranger figure of Shuruppak is to be set. He may have been invented solely to provide a teacher, or there may have been a little-known recension of antedeluvian history from which he was taken. For some reason there must have been an objection to assigning the duty to Ubartutu. ...

Source for the Instructions of Shuruppak: Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford 1998- .


 1-13 In those days, in those far remote days, in those nights, in those faraway nights, in those years, in those far remote years, at that time the wise one who knew how to speak in elaborate words lived in the Land; Curuppag, the wise one, who knew how to speak with elaborate words lived in the Land. Curuppag gave instructions to his son; Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu gave instructions to his son Zi-ud-sura: My son, let me give you instructions: you should pay attention! Zi-ud-sura, let me speak a word to you: you should pay attention! Do not neglect my instructions! Do not transgress the words I speak! The instructions of an old man are precious; you should comply with them!

14You should not buy a donkey which brays; it will split (?) your midriff (?).

15-18You should not locate a field on a road; ....... You should not plough a field at (1 ms. adds: a road or) a path; ....... You should not make a well in your field: people will cause damage on it for you. You should not place your house next to a public square: there is always a crowd (?) there.

19-20You should not vouch for someone: that man will have a hold on you; and you yourself, you should not let somebody vouch for you (1 ms. adds:: that man will despise (?) you).

21You should not make an inspection (?) on a man: the flood (?) will give it back (?) to you.

22-27 You should not loiter about where there is a quarrel; you should not let the quarrel make you a witness. You should not let (?) yourself ...... in a quarrel. You should not cause a quarrel; ....... ...... the gate of the palace ....... Stand aside from a quarrel, ...... you should not take (?) another road.

28-31You should not steal anything; you should not ...... yourself. You should not break into a house; you should not wish for the money chest (?). A thief is a lion, but after he has been caught, he will be a slave. My son, you should not commit robbery; you should not cut yourself with an axe.

32-34You should not make a young man best man. You should not ...... yourself. You should not play around with a married young woman: the slander could be serious. My son, you should not sit alone in a chamber with a married woman.

35-38You should not pick a quarrel; you should not disgrace yourself. You should not ...... lies; ....... You should not boast; then your words will be trusted. You should not deliberate for too long (?); you cannot bear ...... glances.

39-41You should not eat stolen food with anyone (1 ms. has instead: a thief). You should not sink (?) your hand into blood. After you have apportioned the bones, you will be made to restore the ox, you will be made to restore the sheep.

42-43You should not speak improperly; later it will lay a trap for you.

44-46You should not scatter your sheep into unknown pastures. You should not hire someone's ox for an uncertain ....... A safe ...... means a safe journey.

47You should not travel during the night: it can hide both good and evil.

48You should not buy an onager: it lasts (?) only until the end of the day.

49You should not have sex with your slave girl: she will chew you up (?).

50You should not curse strongly: it rebounds on you.

51-52You should not draw up water which you cannot reach (1 ms. has instead: grasp): it will make you weak.
1 line unclear

53 You should not drive away a debtor: he will be hostile towards you.

54-57 You should not establish a home with an arrogant man: he will make your life like that of a slave girl. You will not be able to travel through any human dwelling without be being shouted at: "There you go! There you go!"

58-59 You should not undo the ...... of the garden's reed fence; "Restore it! Restore it!" they will say to you.

60 You should not provide a stranger (?) with food; you should not wipe out (?) a quarrel.

61-62 My son, you should not use violence (?); ....... You should not commit rape on someone's daughter; the courtyard will learn of it.

63-64 You should not drive away a powerful (1 ms. has instead: strong) man; you should not destroy the outer wall. You should not drive away a young man; you should not make him turn against the city.

65-66 The eyes of the slanderer always move around as shiftily as a spindle. You should never remain in his presence; his intentions (?) should not be allowed to have an effect (?) on you.

67 You should not boast in beer halls (1 ms. has instead: breweries) like a deceitful man: (1 ms. adds: then your words will be trusted.)

68-72 Having reached the field of manhood, you should not jump (?) with your hand. The warrior is unique, he alone is the equal of many; Utu is unique, he alone is the equal of many. With your life you should always be on the side of the warrior; with your life you should always be on the side of Utu.

73-75 Curuppag gave these instructions to his son. Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu, gave these instructions to his son Zi-ud-sura.

76-82 A second time,Curuppag gave instructions to his son. Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu gave instructions to his son Zi-ud-sura: My son, let me give you instructions: you should pay attention! Zi-ud-sura, let me speak a word to you: you should pay attention! Do not neglect my instructions! Do not transgress the words I speak! (1 ms. adds the line: The instructions of an old man are precious; you should comply with them! )

83-91The beer-drinking mouth ....... My little one ....... The beer-drinking mouth ....... Ninkasi .......
5 lines unclear

92-93Your own man will not repay (?) it for you. The reed-beds are ......, they can hide (?) slander.

94-96The palace is like a mighty river: its middle is goring bulls; what flows in is never enough to fill it, and what flows out can never be stopped.

97-100 When it is about someone's else bread, it is easy to say "I will give it to you", but the time of actual giving can be as far away as the sky. If you go after the man who said "I will give it to you", he will say "I cannot give it to you -- the bread has just been finished up".

101-102 Property is something to be expanded (?); but nothing can equal my little ones.

103-105 The artistic mouth recites words; the harsh mouth brings litigation documents; the sweet mouth gathers sweet herbs.

106-108The garrulous (1 ms. has instead: liar) fills (?) his bread bag; the haughty one brings an empty bag and can fill his empty mouth only with boasting.

109 Who works with leather will eventually (?) work with his own leather.

110The strong one can escape (?) from anyone's hand.

111-114 The fool loses something. When sleeping, the fool loses something. "Do not tie me up!" he pleads; "Let me live!" he pleads.

115-117 The imprudent decrees fates; the shameless one piles up (?) things in another's lap: "I am such that I deserve admiration".

118 A weak wife is always seized (?) by fate.

119-123 If you hire a worker, he will share the bread bag with you; he eats with you from the same bag, and finishes up the bag with you. Then he will quit working with you and, saying "I have to live on something", he will serve at the palace.

124-125 You tell your son to come to your home; you tell your daughter to go to her women's quarters.

126 You should not pass judgment when you drink beer.

127 You should not worry unduly about what leaves the house.

128-130 Heaven is far, earth is most precious, but it is with heaven that you multiply your goods, and all foreign lands breathe under it.

131-133 At harvest time, at the most priceless time, collect like a slave girl, eat like a queen; my son, to collect like a slave girl, to eat like a queen, this is how it should be.

134-142 Who insults can hurt only the skin; greedy eyes (?), however, can kill. The liar, shouting, tears up his garments. Insults bring (?) advice to the wicked. To speak arrogantly is like an abscess: a herb that makes the stomach sick.
1 line is unclear
My words of prayer bring abundance. Prayer is cool water that cools the heart. Only (?) insults and stupid speaking receive the attention of the Land.

143-145 Curuppag gave these instructions to his son. Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu, gave these instructions to his son Zi-ud-sura.

146-152A third time, Curuppag gave instructions to his son. Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu gave instructions to his son Zi-ud-sura: My son, let me give you instructions: you should pay attention! Zi-ud-sura, let me speak a word to you: you should pay attention! Do not neglect my instructions! Do not transgress the words I speak! (Some mss. add the line: The instructions of an old man are precious; you should comply with them! )

153You should not beat a farmer's son: he has constructed (?) your embankments and ditches.

154-164You should not buy a prostitute: she is a mouth that bites. You should not buy a house-born slave: he is a herb that makes the stomach sick. You should not buy a free man: he will always lean against the wall. You should not buy a palace slave girl: she will always be the bottom of the barrel (?). You should rather bring down a foreign slave from the mountains, or you should bring somebody from a place where he is an alien; my son, then he will pour water for you where the sun rises and he will walk before you. He does not belong to any family, so he does not want to go to his family; he does not belong to any city, so he does not want to go to his city. (1 ms. adds 2 lines: He cannot knock at the door of ......, he cannot enter .......) He will not ...... with you, he will not be presumptuous with you.

165-167My son, you should not travel alone eastwards. Your acquaintance should not .......

168-169 A name placed on another one ......; you should not pile up a mountain on another one.

170-171Fate is a wet bank; it can make one slip.

172-174The elder brother is indeed like a father; the elder sister is indeed like a mother. Listen therefore to your elder brother, and you should be obedient to your elder sister as if she were your mother.

175-176You should not work using only your eyes; you will not multiply your possessions using only your mouth.

177 The negligent one ruins (?) his family.

178-180The need for food makes some people ascend the mountains; it also brings traitors and foreigners, since the need for food brings down other people from the mountains.

181-182A small city provides (?) its king with a calf; a huge city digs (?) a house plot (?).

183-188...... is well equipped. The poor man inflicts all kinds of illnesses on the rich man. The married man is well equipped; the unmarried makes his bed in a haystack (?). He who wishes to destroy a house will go ahead and destroy the house; he who wishes to raise up will go ahead and raise up.

189-192By grasping the neck of a huge ox, you can cross the river. By moving along (?) at the side of the mighty men of your city, my son, you will certainly ascend (?).

193-201When you bring a slave girl from the hills, she brings both good and evil with her. The good is in the hands; the evil is in the heart. The heart does not let go of the good; but the heart cannot let go of the evil either. As if it were a watery place, the heart does not abandon the good. Evil is a store-room .......
(1 ms. adds: 2 lines unclear)
May the boat with the evil sink in the river! May his waterskin split in the desert!

202-203A loving heart maintains a family; a hateful heart destroys a family.

204-207To have authority, to have possessions and to be steadfast are princely divine powers. You should submit to the respected; you should be humble before the powerful. My son, you will then survive (?) against the wicked.

208-212You should not choose a wife during a festival. Her inside is illusory (?); her outside is illusory (?). The silver on her is borrowed; the lapis lazuli on her is borrowed (1 ms. has instead the line: ......; the jewellery on her is borrowed, the jewellery on her is borrowed). The dress on her is borrowed; the linen garment on her is borrowed. With ...... nothing (?) is comparable.

213-214 You should not buy a ...... bull. You should not buy a vicious bull; ...... a hole (?) in the cattle-pen .......

215 One appoints (?) a reliable woman for a good household.

216-217You should not buy a donkey at the time of harvest. A donkey which eats ...... will ...... with another donkey.

218-219 A vicious donkey hangs its neck; however, a vicious man, my son, .......

220 A woman with her own property ruins the house.

221A drunkard will drown the harvest.

222-234 A female burglar (?) ...... ladder; she flies into the houses like a fly. A she-donkey ...... on the street. A sow suckles its child on the street. A woman who pricked herself begins to cry and holds the spindle which pricked (?) her in her hand. She enters every house; she peers into all streets. ...... she keeps saying "Get out!" She looks around (?) from all parapets. She pants (?) where there is a quarrel.
2 lines unclear

235-241Marry (?) ...... whose heart hates (?). My son, ......
4 lines unclear
A heart which overflows with joy .......

242-244Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things; things should serve you. My son, .......

245 You should not ...... grain; its ...... are numerous.

246-247 You should not abuse a ewe; otherwise you will give birth to a daughter. You should not throw a lump of earth into the money chest (?); otherwise you will give birth to a son.

248-249 You should not abduct a wife; you should not make her cry (?). The place where the wife is abducted to .......

251 "Let us run in circles (?), saying: "Oh, my foot, oh, my neck!". Let us with united forces (?) make the mighty bow!"

252-253 You should not kill a ......, he is a child born by ....... You should not kill ...... like ......; you should not bind him.

254 The wet-nurses in the women's quarters determine the fate of their lord.

255-260 You should not speak arrogantly to your mother; that causes hatred for you. You should not question the words of your mother and your personal god. The mother, like Utu, gives birth to the man; the father, like a god, makes him bright (?). The father is like a god: his words are reliable. The instructions of the father should be complied with.

261 Without suburbs a city has no centre either.

262-263 My son, a field situated at the bottom of the embankments, be it wet or dry, is nevertheless a source of income.

264 it is inconceivable (?) that something is lost forever.

265...... of Dilmun ......

266-271 To get lost is bad for a dog; but terrible for a man (1 ms. has instead: An unknown place is terrible; to get lost is shameful (?) for a dog). On the unfamiliar way at the edge of the mountains, the gods of the mountains are man-eaters. They do not build houses there as men do; they do not build cities there as men do.
1 line unclear

272-273 For the shepherd, he stopped searching, he stopped bringing back the sheep. For the farmer (?), he stopped ploughing the field.
1 line unclear

274-276 This gift of words is something which soothes the mind ......; when it enters the palace, it soothes the mind ....... The gift of many words ..... stars.

277 These are the instructions given by Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu.

278-280 Praise be to the lady who completed the great tablets, the maiden Nisaba, that Curuppag, the son of Ubara-Tutu gave his instructions!


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